Re Carolyn Bunting’s My View, “Returning Teaching to Teachers
” (May 2018):
From my years as a teacher and administrator in traditional public schools, I am well aware that the PUSH OF OUTSIDE REGULATION
can get in the way of what teachers are naturally good at and what they genuinely love about teaching.
In my current role leading a state organization of charter schools, I can tell you that we are working to rebalance this equation. It is a part of OUR CHARGE AND MISSION
as charters to develop and model change that helps charters while also opening new options for the traditional settings. As charter and traditional camps listen and learn from each other, both will grow.
NORTH CAROLINA PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS ASSOCIATION,
The profile of Michelle Saylor, superintendent of the Bellefonte schools in central Pennsylvania (“From Modest Start to Model Leader
,” August 2018) is an inspirational story. It reinforces the idea that we should continue to work toward a robust teacher-to-administrator pipeline to ensure that deserving candidates can earn top posts.
FIORELLO H. LAGUARDIA HIGH SCHOOL,
NEW YORK, N.Y.
Re “Better Citizens Through Critical Thinking
” by William T. Gormley (April 2018):
Whether the following statement was uttered by Abraham Lincoln is less important than its timeless wisdom and insight: “The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will become the philosophy of the government in the next.”
In his article, Gormley recounts experiences from the preceding years at schools across the country that are chronicled in his recent book The Critical Advantage: Developing Critical Thinking Skills in Schools
. Through these, he came to better understand how essential and empowering learning opportunities that engage students as agents within their communities truly are.
When I worked in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, Gormley visited one of our elementary schools at the culmination of an extended project-based learning module.
For this unit, students determined the learning target: They would take a stand against violence in their community. Working alongside incredible faculty and one of the most powerful principals I’ve ever met (Virginia Hill), we helped students to design a multi-grade-level project that brought civic engagement and activism to light.
In his April article, Gormley suggests “our best hope for civic enlightenment is to ensure that the next generation of citizens has strong critical thinking skills.” This claim is not made in service of promoting 21st-century skills, as doing so too often generates a meaningless echo chamber. Rather, his claim is made in the spirit of engaging today’s students in growing into the roles they will fill tomorrow.
There exists a construct under the Project Zero umbrella known as Agency by Design, within which educators design learning opportunities that encourage students to study, hack and remake the designed world around them to better suit their needs. This is precisely what the aforementioned students in Pittsburgh were given the opportunity to do. They studied the social and cultural elements of structural racism designed into the world around them, sought to understand the sources of deep wounds and divisions within their community, and created a powerful counter-narrative describing the future they expect to inherit — one founded on peace, love and acceptance. The culminating assessment product was a massive peace rally and march through the neighborhoods served by the school. Local media outlets, politicians and community activists spoke and marched alongside students.
The most powerful outcome, though, came sometime after the day of the rally. A young student approached the school’s principal, lamenting that their rally hadn’t worked as another deadly shooting happened down the road. Echoing Linda Cliatt Wayman’s powerful message, the principal responded, “So what, now what?” With that, the girl walked away and went on to organize an even larger rally that took place toward the end of the academic year. In addition to the original school, three other neighborhood schools joined the students of Lincoln Elementary. They shared their message of peace and love, and they took several steps toward what Gormley refers to as civic enlightenment.
This is what project-based learning and STEAM are all about — working and learning alongside students to design opportunities that empower them as agents and authors of their futures.
SHAUN ALLEN TOMASZEWSKI
DIRECTOR OF CURRICULUM AND ASSESSMENT,
NORTHGATE SCHOOL DISTRICT,
Offbeat Job Titles
I enjoyed the Leadership Lite
section in your August issue as it mentions our organization’s fun job titles. As you can see from my signature, we are all lucky enough to have something a little quirky in our titles. Now, when our chief wonder officer position needs to be filled, I’ll be sure to let you know.
MANAGER, COMMUNICATIONS AND CURIOSITY,
SCIENCE MUSEUM OF VIRGINIA,